By Cristina Schreil
Violinist Jason Anick spies a resurgence in Gypsy jazz. When the Berklee College of Music instructor lectured on the genre at the American String Teachers Association’s March conference, he encountered proof of the interest he sensed had been growing for a while.
“The clinic was completely full—not an empty seat,” Anick recalled in a phone call from Boston. “That’s about 100 teachers from all around the country that have about 100 students . . . . I just see it spreading more and more.” Anick said the community aspect of Gypsy music, which began around campfires with songs passed down through generations, has lent to Gypsy jazz’s inclusive energy. At ASTA, he argued that it’s a great segue from the classical realm to jazz.
It’s a fitting moment for Anick and his colleagues comprising the Rhythm Future
Quartet—guitarists Olli Soikkeli and Max O’Rourke and bassist Greg Loughman—to release their second record, Travels, in February. The 13-track album on the Magic Fiddle Music label features ten original works, composed and arranged by members.
While the ensemble’s 2014 self-titled first album drew from classic Gypsy-jazz repertoire—the new group wanted to release an album quickly, Anick explained—this one aims to push boundaries. Tracks fuse various styles while staying true to the “swinging, string-driven sounds of the past.”
“Vesella,” one of Anick’s compositions, uses an odd meter inspired by Balkan music. “Keeper” and “Amsterdam” have a Latin groove. In “Still Winter,” which Anick describes as having a “classical essence,” he overlaid string parts for an orchestral feeling.
Three tracks that the group reinterpreted are Biréli Lagrène’s “Made in France,” Paul Durand’s “Je Sui Seul Ce Soir,” and John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “Come Together.”
Travels has a double meaning: Quartet members have literally visited more than 50 countries between them, and cull from experiences with other ensembles and genres. But listeners can also see it as “musically moving into different worlds.” It’s a contemporary stamp that the quartet hopes to put on the genre.
Gypsy jazz, a style also known as Gypsy swing or hot-club jazz, became popular in the 1930s with the Quintette du Hot Club de France, the group that featured violinist Stéphane Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt. While honoring those figures, the Rhythm Future Quartet looks to investigate new pathways in the 21st century.
“More people are slowly realizing that Gypsy jazz is the excitement, the vibe, and the instrumentation of the acoustic guitar and violin,” Anick said.
Anick began studying classical violin at age five. When he was 12, his violinist father took him to see Grappelli live—an “amazing experience.” But what helped him develop as a musician was building a classical foundation.
At Berklee, Anick stresses the basics. He combines classical and jazz worlds, taking a broad focus that involves mapping out the fingerboard. He introduces the repertoire and shows ways of pushing it forward with different arrangements. He’s taught a Gypsy-jazz ensemble for four years, and is the founder of Maine festival Django by